Deborah Ross: Our Woman in Crouch End

I couldn't find spiritual fulfilment in shopping, yoga or cheese, so now I'll try Kabbalah
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I think I will give this Kabbalah thing a go, as I've decided I could do with some spiritual fulfilment.

I don't think I have ever had any spiritual fulfilment. Once, after 14 hours of rummaging madly in TK Maxx, I did find a Vivienne Westwood handbag for £17.99 and felt very good about it for a while, but I'm not entirely convinced that counts. Further, a day or so later, I realised that while it was a Vivienne Westwood handbag and while it was £17.99 it was very pink and really most unpleasant.

All I am saying is that in the search for spiritual fulfilment, TK Maxx can turn out to be very disappointing. I can't speak for Matalan, but have my suspicions.

I did once try yoga, but it was silly and the Lycra went up my bottom.

So I will give this Kabbalah thing a go, as it is all the rage - Madonna; Demi Moore; Ashton Kutcher; Sandra Bernhardt; Guy Ritchie; and John Gray, who wrote Men are from Mars, Women Are From Venus and many, many permutations thereafter: Mars and Venus on a Date; Mars and Venus Diet and Exercise Solution; Mars and Venus in the Bedroom; Mars and Venus Starting Over; Mars and Venus, 365 Ways to Keep Your Love Alive but not, alas, Venus Says: Look, Don't Disappear Into Your Cave Every Time I Mention A Light Bulb Needs Changing. Do You Have Any Idea How Irritating It Is? Get Out, Get Out, And Get Out Now!

I do, though, feel Kabbalah might be for me. I am a Jew, after all, although something of a mixed-up Jew as I don't do any Jewish things, so often wonder if I have any proper right to call myself one. My son, whose father is not Jewish, might be even more confused. "Mum," he once asked when he was little, "as you're Jewish, am I Jewish?" Yes, darling, I said, at least according to the Jewish religion you are. "So has my penis been criticised, then?," he asked. No darling, I said. "Will I have to get it criticised when I'm older?," he asked. I expect so, I said. Your father certainly did, still does, quite a lot. "Does it hurt, dad?" You bet, said his father, who does not take criticism well, always takes it extremely personally, even though, in effect, you have only told him his ham-javelin (so unkosher!) is not up to much and really rather small. Sometimes, he can disappear into his cave for so long I stop setting the table for him. Sometimes it's hard to be a Venusian, but I can't say I miss the sex.

So, Kabbalah, all the rage. It's a strange thing, because Jews have never wanted to attract non-Jews, have never, ever been evangelical. Indeed, when your doorbell goes, and you are not expecting anybody, you may think: "Oh no, Jehovah's." You may think: "Oh no, Mormons." You may think: "Oh no, Seventh Day Adventists." You may think: "Oh no, Sixth Day Adventists, a day early." You may think: "Oh no, NPower." But you don't think: "Oh no, a Jew, come to convert me. Be off, Jew, be off, and I don't care how much it will reduce my bills. I'm quite happy with British Gas." You do not then have to get the man about the house to turf them out, which is good, because the man is still in the cave, which is a pain, as there is still that lightbulb that needs changing. When you give a man unsolicited advice, John Gray says, do you know how unloving you sound? Yes, John. I think I bloody do. In turn, do you know what it is like to be a Venusian, always bumping into things in the dark? (When I say 'things' I don't mean that thing. So tiny!)

However, this said, I'm not sure that the current Kabbalah has a great deal in common with the original Kabbalah, the Jewish mystical tradition based on the book of Zohar, written in the second century, and so complex that, traditionally, it was reserved for the most learned and pious. Indeed, orthodox Jews are not even allowed to study Kabbalah - effectively the "soul" of the Torah - until they are 40. They would argue, I'm guessing, that the sort of Kabbalah endorsed by the likes of Madonna and Demi and so on is a grotesque, New Age distortion brought about by profiteers offering simple, self-help-style answers to complex questions for cash.

I once tried to be a profiteer offering simple answers to complex questions for cash but, and I'm the first to admit it, I wasn't very good at it. "Why are we here?" people would ask. "Cheese," I would say, "now that's £27.50 plus VAT." "What I'm asking is: what is the meaning of life?," they would persist. "Cheese," I would say, "and as I've told you twice it's now £65.99 plus VAT. Now get out my face." Strangely, I had a lot of trouble getting people to pay up and failed to make any profit whatsoever.

As it is, you can get those Kabbalah essentials, those little bits of red thread to wear around the wrist, from any haberdashery counter for next to nothing, which is, surely, a scandal considering you can also get one from www.kabbalah.com for $26.00.

So I have bought a book, The Power of Kabbalah, Yehuda Berg, which comes endorsed by Madonna ("the ideas in this book are earth-shattering and yet so simple") and John Gray: "This book provides a simple yet powerful and profound message for both novices and seasoned seekers alike."

The book itself makes no claims for itself beyond: "This book contains the secrets of the universe and the meaning of our lives." What? It's not cheese?

Anyway, in my pursuit of spiritual fulfilment and enlightenment, I intend to study it and will report back next week. But I must say I like the look of it already, as there is a chapter called "The Power of Light". Light, light. Wouldn't that be nice.

d.ross@independent.co.uk

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